August 1, 2008

Capella Aims to Improve Image

By Keith Purtell, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

Aug. 1--Muskogee City Councilman Jim Ritchey said Thursday he thinks one of the ways to help Muskogee Regional Medical Center is to get the word out about its quality of care.

Ritchey and the rest of the council attended a special call meeting at MRMC to view a presentation about the hospital's successes and challenges.

"We need this hospital," he said. "If more people in the community don't support this hospital, there is always the possibility that we could lose it. We don't need to lose our regional health center. It's a good facility with quality doctors, and we need to educate the community about what a good facility we have."

The presentation covered a broad range of facts and figures, such as MRMC:

--is the city's second-largest employer;

--serves an extended market of approximately 180,000 people; and

--is seeing 46 percent of potential patients go elsewhere for health care.

The question-and-answer session afterward made it clear there were issues the council had in mind, including the new hospital under construction outside city limits, physician recruitment and achieving a more positive community image.

Mayor John Tyler Hammons said his most academically successful college classmates all wanted to be doctors, but not in the Muskogee area.

MRMC Chief Executive Officer Steve Mahan said the hospital is responding by getting more involved with youth through programs like the new speaker's bureau and membership in Junior Achievement.

"We're planting seeds for the long term," he said. "We're reaching out to young people."

Councilman David Jones asked why there is history of conflict between managers and doctors.

Mahan said the hospital industry suffers unique internal pressures because it doesn't have free market dynamics.

"It's because the weird system of health care in our country is broken," he said. "The conflicting demands placed on the entire system creates friction."

Mahan said that the hospital is about to hire a second full-time physician recruiter to help reach its goal of 55 new hires in five years.

In response to a question from councilman Shawn Raper, Mahan said he would like to replace all the physicians who are building the second hospital with new hires.

Raper also asked if there was any way the city could help MRMC hire new doctors.

Mahan said Capella Healthcare's corporate resources have been plentiful so far.

"My parent corporation is providing all the recruitment funding and resources I need," he said.

Councilman Jackie Luckey asked what the hospital is doing to enhance its image.

Mahan replied that several approaches are under way.

"This exercise today is one piece of what we're trying to do," he said. "We also are conducting intensive internal communication with our staff about where this hospital is going. And we can change that image by virtue of the service we deliver."

Accomplishments listed in the presentation included:

--MRMC served 79,183 patients this year.

--MRMC has provided $10 million in charity care.

--Capella pays $5 million in taxes; $700,000 of that locally.

--MRMC has hired 10 new physicians and 30 new nurses.

--Length of time in the emergency room has been cut to two hours and 10 minutes, compared to a national average of four hours and five minutes.

City Manager Greg Buckley said he liked the down-to-earth tone of the presentation.

"I appreciate Capella working diligently to be a partner in the community, plus them making us aware of what they're having to deal with and the challenges they're facing in order to be a good provider," he said.

MRMC plans to take their presentation on the road and show it to a number of civic groups.


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